the Physics Education Technology Project
This student hand-out was created specifically to accompany the PhET simulation "Nuclear Fission". Appropriate for grades 8-12, it provides guided directions on using the simulation to ensure that students stay focused on learning goals. The simulation features a neutron gun that "fires" an accelerated neutron into a Uranium-235 nucleus. By using this printed guide, students will be prompted to think about what happens in a nuclear reaction, what makes a nucleus "fissionable" and how nuclear power containment vessels prevent a runaway chain reaction.
The fission simulation, which must be open and displayed to complete this activity, is available from PhET at: Nuclear Fission.
This lesson is part of PhET (Physics Education Technology Project), a large collection of free interactive simulations for science education.
9-12: 3C/H5. Human inventiveness has brought new risks as well as improvements to human existence.
4. The Physical Setting
4D. The Structure of Matter
6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
9-12: 4D/H1. Atoms are made of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom but makes up almost all of its mass. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which have roughly the same mass but differ in that protons are positively charged while neutrons have no electric charge.
9-12: 4D/H2. The number of protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.
9-12: 4D/H3. Although neutrons have little effect on how an atom interacts with other atoms, the number of neutrons does affect the mass and stability of the nucleus. Isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons (and therefore of electrons) but differ in the number of neutrons.
9-12: 4D/H4. The nucleus of radioactive isotopes is unstable and spontaneously decays, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. It cannot be predicted exactly when, if ever, an unstable nucleus will decay, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability of decay rate allows radioactivity to be used for estimating the age of materials that contain radioactive substances.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
High School — Functions (9-12)
Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
F-LE.1.c Recognize situations in which a quantity grows or decays by a constant percent rate per unit interval relative to another.
F-LE.3 Observe using graphs and tables that a quantity increasing exponentially eventually exceeds a quantity increasing linearly, quadratically, or (more generally) as a polynomial function.
%0 Electronic Source %A Blaisdell, Mark %D July 8, 2009 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Nuclear Fission Simulation - Student Guide %I Physics Education Technology Project %V 2014 %N 28 July 2014 %8 July 8, 2009 %9 application/ms-word %U http://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3249
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